How To Undermine the Strike AND Look Like an Idiot

For those of you monitoring the strike, there’s clearly no shortage of reportage or opinions.  From Nikki Finke to Variety to various petitions making their rounds through cyberspace, everyone’s touched in some way and has something to say.  And, for the most part, it’s a fascinating whirlwind of perspectives and commentary.  But there are some emails, which you may have gotten, that– frankly– are drivin’ me nuts (and bear with me here, because I’m about to get angry)…

You may have gotten some of these emails, but in the past few days, I’ve received numerous chain-emails from people (usually assistants at networks, studios, and actual TV shows, the first places to get hit with job cuts) advocating things like, “It no longer matters what the issues are– innocent people are losing their jobs– so please, writers and producers, just get back in the room and start negotiating.”  One letter is even attempting to gather names of all writers, executives, and crew members who have lost jobs so it can send a letter containing their names to both the studios and the WGA in hopes of “shaming” them into negotiating.  The letter claims it’s not interested in taking sides or discussing issues– it just wants both sides to swallow their pride and get back to the table.  (This particular letter has now actually started its own blog, GetBackInThatRoom, which actually begins with these words as its second sentence… “Who is at fault doesn’t matter.”)

Well, to all the people starting these letters and the GetBackInThatRoom blog, I have only this to say: THESE ARE THE MOST COWARDLY, INEFFECTUAL ATTEMPTS TO JOIN THE FRAY I’VE EVER SEEN.  (Not to mention… they make you, the letter-writers, look like uninformed, petulant adolescents.)

First of all… these letters ignorantly assume that both sides are being equally stubborn and
refusing to go back to the negotiating table, which isn’t true.  The
writers would love to go back to the negotiating table, but it’s the
studios that are refusing.  So these letters are not only misinformed, they insult the very
people who are doing their best to end the strike: the writers,
the people who are on the frontlines trying to protect the assistants and everyone else losing their jobs.

Secondly… both the WGA and the studios/networks know hundreds of people are losing jobs.  Showing them a list of names ain’t really a newsflash.  In fact, both sides use that info to fuel their fire against the other side.  In other words, handing the studios a list of unemployed people doesn’t shame them— it allows them to say, “Yup, it’s tragic— and totally the writers’ fault.  There’s nothing we can do, but thanks for proving our point.  We’d love to help… yet our hands our tied.”  And same for the writers.

Thirdly, and this point doesn’t anger me as much as it just… what’s the word?… oh, yeah– “amuses” me (like patting the letter-writers on the head and saying, “aw, you’re so cute”):  If the studios could be shamed into doing something, they would have been shamed long ago.  These are multi-billion dollar corporations we’re talking about.  They don’t feel “shame” until something affects their bottom line.  Between 1980 and 2000, NBC’s parent company, G.E., laid off over 100,000 American employees… and that was while the company’s stock was rising So the notion that a list of a few hundred– or even a few thousand– unemployed people is going to “shame” anyone is naive and ineffectual at best… and embarrassingly ignorant at worst.  It’s like watching a Chihuahua try to tackle an entire pack of German shepherds by barking at them… sad and cute, all at the same time.  (This isn’t to say I don’t feel immense sympathy for anyone losing their job… I’m just saying that if you wanna make a point about the strike, say something that doesn’t make you look like you’ve never read a newspaper or lived in the modern world for the last thirty years.)

Lastly (and this may be the part that angers me the most), is these letters’ sheer cowardice in their refusal to take a stand.  There is a right side and a wrong side in this strike, and virtually everyone– probably with the exception of Nick Counter– knows that.  To dismiss that— to treat both sides the same, as if they’re both equals and just need to come to terms, without caring about the negotiating points— is not only offensive to the people who are trying to fight for something noble— including these letter-writers’ jobs— but it’s like sending out a beacon saying, “Hey, everyone— I don’t really understand, or care to understand, the truth of the situation.  I just want to sound like I have something important to say!” 

If you’re going to take a stand, letter-writers… TAKE A F*CKING STAND.  Otherwise, get out of the way and stop looking like children.  You’re not helping anyone, including yourselves… and you’re certainly not helping the writers who are giving up their livelihoods to protect yours.

(And by the way, if you do think neither side is right or
wrong– that this is somehow a fair fight in which both sides just need
to find some middle ground, I’d challenge you to– at the very least– say that in your letter… and back it up.)

Again, none of this is to say I don’t feel for people who have lost their jobs– especially assistants, those at the bottom of the food chain who are innocent victims.

But if you’re going to make a statement, do it with some intelligence and cajones.  Send a letter to the conglomerates.  Send the strikers some food.  Join the picket.  Sign this petition to the AMPTP.

We all feel the effects of this strike, and we’re all gonna feel it for weeks or months to come, and letters like these do nothing but throw wood on the fire and then run away without really saying anything.  And that doesn’t help anyone… especially the people who wrote them.

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5 thoughts on “How To Undermine the Strike AND Look Like an Idiot

  1. Get Back In That Room

    First – OUT HERE IN IOWA – until you can use "your" and "you’re" right, YOU’RE not allowed to comment with the adults.


    Here’s my stand and I’ll be brief because they’ve just decided to go back to negotiating and you don’t deserve that much of my time.

    There was no stance as to what I thought about the strike not because I don’t have an opinion (I very much do have one) but because that was neither the point of ‘Get Back In That Room’ nor was it a public forum for my opinion. The point was to very simply implore them to return to talks, while giving many hurt people an outlet. TALKS do not mean undermining anyone’s principles. TALKS do not mean giving away anything you believe in.

    If you are too belligerently one-sided to see that then, well, I guess there’s not much I can say to help you.

  2. Dave

    Chad, I agree with your anger toward the lazy "pox on both your houses" crap. Anyone who throws their hands up and says "both sides are wrong" is clearly not paying enough attention.

    Do some reading, do some thinking, develop an informed opinion. I’ll bet you won’t be on the fence.

  3. neverwinterize

    yeah, it’s hard to separate rants/letter campaigns like the ones you mention from the one-sided "boo hoo"s coming from people jealous of the writers’ positions and salaries, or people purporting to represent an imaginary constituency of eye-rolling blue-collar america. i think the new yorker link you put up was right–that strikes are the result of asymmetrical information (and that the actual strike is a power play that should reveal if the other side is bluffing, and that if it drags on, there was probably no bluff). it’s also hard to relate to a band of people whose motive is not fairness, as in the case of the strikers, but resistance to adapting, and yeah, maybe having to get a new job. which people working in reality tv have to do on a regular basis, too. if a list of people who’ve lost their jobs is what they want, then i can understand that. but i do think there’s a more eloquent and lucid way to solicit names.

  4. Kate

    I’m not sure that I agree with you on this.

    Although signing one’s name to a list is clearly not the most effective way of participating in the strike, nor should it be anyone’s only method of support, my understanding is that the goal of the most prominent of these emails is to generate a list by name and position of people who’ve lost their jobs and publish that list in an ad in the trades. Any reminder that the casualties of a prolonged strike are individuals, not just faceless masses of assistants and crewspeople, will help bolster support for the WGA.

    As I type that, I see your point that the AMPTP will try to blame the writers for all this unemployment, and I agree that the executive who’s been circulating this list should come down more strongly in support of the writers’ position. I don’t agree, however, that these lists are completely cowardly and ineffectual. I do think that their position as not as strong as it should be.

    Alright. Back to the picket line.


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